6 Nursing Lessons My Mentors Taught Me

The programs in place today to educate and nurture tomorrow’s nurses can be the best place to meet unforgettable teachers. One leader shares some of her own.

Beverly Malone, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
CEO, National League for Nursing
6 Nursing Lessons My Mentors Taught Me

I have been fortunate to have a bushel of mentors. From my great-grandmother to my colleague who was a Parisian scholar, they have challenged, soothed and challenged me again. I have had mentors for every aspect of my career growth and development. So I have been privileged to never settle for only one mentor, as if there could be only one dimension to the expectations and dreams I have nourished along my career journey.

Let me mention a few of these giants in my life. Dr. Hildegarde Peplau, the mother of psychiatric mental health nursing, who demanded that I choose to be a leader in order to work with her. Dr. Edward Klein, chair of my Department of Clinical Psychology. He extended my skills in becoming a clinician. Dr. Hattie Bessent, who introduced me to politics—and to another mentor, Senator Inouye from Hawaii. These are just a few of the mentors who have shaped my life and career.

If I have to sum up the lessons, I’ll give you six:

1. It’s a cinch by the inch; it’s hard by the yard

It’s easier sometimes to take smaller bites of life or a project than to try to swallow it all at once.

2. I can be delayed but not defeated

As long as we have breath, we have opportunity. The next step is right there before us.

3. Just because they throw, it doesn’t mean you have to catch it

Decide what you will respond to; decide who you are.

4. Feed ‘em with a long-handled spoon

There will always be others who are difficult to deal with. They still need to be fed, just not up close.

5. You knew it was a snake when you picked it up

Identify and recognize your challenges, including those who are not your friends. Don’t be so surprised by the behavior of those you have clearly identified as snakes.

6. A vision without action is a hallucination

Visions should be shareable. Turn your dreams and desires into a shared actionable plan with measureable goals.  

Finally, let me end by saying that these accomplished role models, my mentors, were able to distinguish between a wall and a door. This is something that can be very difficult and challenging to do. Carefully and strategically, they guided me toward each door, teaching me how to avoid the walls, open the doors and steadily move up the stairs of life and my career.

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